Oh no! Not a Group Interview!!

Imagine this; you read about a large district holding a job fair, and within the list of posted positions is one that perfectly fits you!  Wow, how great is this?  So, between the requirements identified by ad and what your research has discovered about the district, you tailor and update your resume to fit exactly what the district needs.  As you prepare for the promised interview, you sharpen up your answers with solid examples, put together a small interview portfolio, and gather your thoughts for the questions you anticipate will be asked.  In short, you are ready!  You are going to be an interview warrior!!
                Upon arrival you are greeted and asked to fill out a few information sheets and a district application for employment.  There must be 40 or 50 people milling about, but you are not concerned; who knows which positions they have in mind.  Besides, you studied and feel ready.  As you sit waiting for your interview, you are just trying to relax and stay calm.  Finally, a nicely dressed individual calls your name and invites you to come into an adjoining room for your interview.  As you enter the room, your heart sinks.  There in the room sit six other candidates who you had seen in the outer waiting area.  Count them!  Six!  All of you are going to interview at the same time?  Oh no; it’s the dreaded group interview!  Oh man; you were not prepared for this possibility.
                Of all the interview formats, I believe the group interview is the one that most often throws candidates into a tailspin.  Yet, that does not have to be the case.  In fact, if handled properly, it can actually be to your advantage.  Today’s blog is going to provide you with six can’t miss strategies to help you master that group interview.  You are going to feel better.  I promise.  Now, here they are in no particular order.
Establish a great first impression and professional image.  Upon entering, shake hands with every member of the team, have a great smile, and look them in the eye.  Do not even look at the other candidates; focus all your attention on the committee members.  If you have a pad, write down the last name of the lead interviewer and, if there are others, as many of the other committee members as possible.  When asked a question, use the interviewer’s name at some point.  Remember, it is always Dr., Mr. or Ms.  If someone was introduced as a Mrs., then use that as a preferred title.  Keep in mind that you are being evaluated against every other candidate from the moment you enter the room until the moment you leave.  Names will help establish personal connections others probably missed.
Watch your body language and posture.  It is easy to become distracted or assume relaxed postures when others are answering.  Avoid that possibility.  If you are sitting in chairs, both feet on the floor with your hands on top of a pad is a good base position.  Keep from slouching or leaning in your chair as that indicates disinterest.  When you leave, again shake everyone’s hand and, if you can remember their name, use it.
Don’t engage the other candidates at any time, or try to “one-up” an answer.  Direct all of your answers to the committee, and target the question asked, not the answer given by someone else.  What they said is immaterial.  It is the committee who must hear and recognize the value of what you have to say.  Treat the process as if it is only you and committee.
Maintain eye contact with the committee, and maintain your energy and enthusiasm throughout all of your interactions. Stay focused on the committee and not the competition.  Be sure to watch your facial expressions and body language as others are answering.  You do not want to give any indication that you agree or disagree with what others are saying.  A good way to handle this is to focus on your pad and occasionally write something.  What you write is immaterial as you are not going to use it anyway.  As you give your own answers, maintain energy, changes of pitch, and use your smile where appropriate.  Dry, deadpan answers go nowhere and that is certainly not what we had in mind.
Answer every question with as much precision as possible.  Use practical examples to demonstrate key points, and include quantitative information when possible.  Keep your answer targeted to the question.   Take care not to wander off topic and keep your answer under two minutes where possible.  With multiple candidates, precision is valued! When you frame an answer to any classroom practice question, try to include a good example of where and how you have, or would have, used that in real practice.  If you have previously implemented this practice to good effect and have quantitative evidence of its value, then add that information for a home run.  Most interviews ask questions on such things as lesson design, classroom management, and/or parent relations.  Pre-think some possible examples you might use with those questions and be ready.
Don’t panic if everyone gets the same question and the person in front of you says something similar to what you had in mind.  This is a common fear, and it is quite likely to happen if there are a number of candidates in the group.  As we said before, do not concern yourself with what others might have said.  You keep that smile plastered on your face and just go right out with the answer you had in mind.  You are going to separate yourself from the pack anyway when you provide that specific example and evidence of its success.  Let the others worry about your answer, you don’t worry about theirs.
So, very simply, those are the six strategies to make you the most formidable candidate at the group interview.  Now you can stop worrying and start preparing.  Book it! You will be the most feared candidate in the room. You can contact me, Robert Pollock, at advantapress1@aol.com. Purchase my book ‘Teacher Interviews: How to Get Them & How to Get Hired!’ at amazon.com View my blog at  interviewingadvice.wordpress.com


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1 Response to Oh no! Not a Group Interview!!

  1. kathryneann says:

    Excellent advice, thank you! My husband is applying for professor positions and a group interview never even occurred to us. These are valuable tips.

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